In February, the American service sector union SEIU announced that the office of US Bank’s chief in Minneapolis was being cleaned by one of its members, Rosalina Gomez. That very same bank had purchased her home when it was foreclosed as a result of the credit crisis. US Bank argued that it was not directly responsible for the foreclosure. Nevertheless, shaming the bank helped the union reach a better contract with the cleaning company responsible for cleaning the headquarters of US Bank, a leader of SEIU told the New York Times.
The newspaper quotes the example to illustrate of an assertive strategy of American unions towards banks and private equity firms. Union federation AFL-CIO has held 200 protests this month, calling for taxes on bankers’ bonuses and on speculative financial transactions. These taxes should raise tens of billions of dollars for a job creation programme.
In addition, shaming financial institutions may serve as a lever to facilitate unionisation of companies they co-own, such as nursing home chains and food service companies.
According to the paper, unions have ‘amassed an armoury of research on derivatives, mortgage foreclosures and even Wall Street pay as part of their effort to hold bankers accountable for the economic pain they helped cause’.
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